In impressive fashion, American by way of Fort Lauderdale, 18 year old Sloane Stephens (above), world #138, won her 3rd consecutive match in the qualification round at Roland Garros, defeating Anastasia Pivovarova, world #95, who probably should have gotten right in to the main draw, 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes.  It’s a tough break for Pivovarova, the 20 year old Russian who was seeded first in the qualification section.  But out on court 14 earlier, she did not play the better tennis in big moments, and was continually thwarted by Stephens, who is an excellent mover on the dirt, and who is probably America’s most notable female prospect at the moment.

Pivovarova, at almost 6′, struggled to win points on serve all day, only managing to win 33 of 62 points on serve, despite getting 82% of her first serves in play.  Qualifying action today boded poorly for big servers amid the cold weather, a clear indication that the clay of Roland Garros is playing very slowly.  Stephens earned 8 break points and won four of them, a day after spanking American Julia Cohen, 6-0, 6-3 in 73 minutes.

On Wednesday, Stephens opened the quallies with a straight set win over Severine Beltrame, formerly Bremond, who is one of only 3 women on tour right now we can think of who play with one hand (the others being Francesca Schiavone and Kristina Barrois).  Stephens, who we recently lobbied for to make our piss poor Fed Cup squad, did not drop a set on her way to a winnable 1st round matchup with Elena Baltacha.

She also won a recent challenger on red clay (early May) and is most definitely playing the best tennis of her young career.  We are gratified.  And we like her draw.  Despite the presence of Cibulkova, Na Li, Dulgheru, and Kvitova in her quarter, we could see Stephens staying close with most of those women, in what is a very weak draw.  If Stephens can avoid Na Li, or get enough of her heavy groundstrokes back, a trip to the round of 16 could be in the cards for the bright young American.

American Jamie Hampton fell to Canadian Alexandra Wozniak, failing to qualify.  She and Stephens were the only Americans left vying for positions in the main draw today.  Young Brit Heather Watson got past Swiss vet Stefanie Voegele in straights.  Watson, a former US Open junior champion who trains in Florida, has now made the main draw of her second career major (Wimbledon, 2010). 

As for the men, how weak is the fact that they only played best of 3 set tennis?  Is this a major or not?  Veteran 1-hander Steve Darcis qualified in straights over top seeded American Alex Bogomolov.  Also unfortunate for the Americans, Ryan Harrison fell today in straight sets. 

Talented Canadian Frank Dancevic made the main draw with a straight set win over Victor Crivoi.  We can’t see him doing much here, but stay tuned for the lad on grass.  Lukasz Kobot, Leonardo Mayer, Alejandro Falla, and Bjorn Phau all qualified today.  And French fans will be happy that countrymen David Guez, Eric Prodon, and Stephane Robert all made it through.

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